1920s Consumer Culture Reading

The car also brought with pollution congestion and

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369,000 in 1920. The car also brought with pollution, congestion, and nearly 30,000 traffic deaths a year.  The automobile industry provided an enormous stimulus for the national economy. By 1929, the industry produced 12.7  percent of all manufacturing output, and employed 1 out of every 12 workers. Automobiles in turn stimulated the growth of  steel, glass, and rubber industries, along with the gasoline stations, motor lodges, camp grounds, and hot dog stands that  dotted the nation's roadways.  Alongside the automobile, other emblems of the consumer economy were the telephone and electricity. By 1930, two- thirds of all American households had electricity and half had telephones. As more and more of America's homes received  electricity, new appliances followed: refrigerators, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and toasters quickly took hold.  Advertisers claimed that "labor saving" appliances would ease the sheer physical drudgery of housework, but they did not  shorten the average housewife's work week. Women had to do more because standards of cleanliness kept rising. Sheets  had to be changed weekly; the house had to be vacuumed daily. In short, social pressure expanded household chores to  keep pace with the new technology. Far from liberating women, appliances imposed new standards of cleanliness.  Ready-to-wear clothing was another important innovation in America's expanding consumer economy. During World War  I, the federal government defined standard clothing sizes to help the nation's garment industry meet the demand for  military uniforms. Standard sizes meant that it was now possible to mass produce ready-to-wear clothing. Since there was  no copyright on clothing designs until the 1950s, garment manufacturers could pirate European fashions and reproduce  them using less expensive fabrics.  Even the public's eating habits underwent far-reaching shifts, as American began to consume fewer starches (like bread  and potatoes) and more fruit and sugar. But the most striking development was the shift toward processed foods. Instead  of preparing food from scratch at home (plucking chickens, roasting nuts, or grinding coffee beans) an increasing number  of Americans purchased foods that were ready-to-cook. Important innovations in food processing occurred during World  War I, as manufacturers learned how to efficiently produce canned and frozen foods. Processed foods saved  homemakers enormous amounts of time in peeling, grinding, and cutting.  Accompanying the rise of new consumer-oriented businesses were profound shifts in the ways that business operated. To 
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